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New Digital Archive Launched

(Members of our volunteer team)

The Theatre Royal’s fascinating 153-year history is now available to explore online…

Over the past two years, the Theatre Royal’s Creative Learning Team has worked in partnership with the University of Nottingham on a major archive and heritage project entitled Our Theatre Royal Nottingham: Its Stories, People & Heritage, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Today, the team launch an innovative new digital archive documenting 153 years of theatrical history at the venue.

Working alongside professional archivists, researchers and trainers, 65 community  volunteers have transformed the venue’s existing archive room, discovering lost stories, programmes, posters, letters and photos, delved deep into Theatre Royal research across Nottingham and recorded interviews with many people connected to this iconic theatre.   Internet users can now freely access this fascinating and broad-ranging archive material in one central place, www.ourtheatreroyal.org.

Supported by the work of researchers at the University of Nottingham, the Theatre Royal’s new digital archive guides users through the venue’s history, either chronologically via a timeline or by exploring broader themes such as PantomimeTheatre During the WarsOnstage & Backstage and Building the Theatre.

As well as historic posters, programmes, playbills, letters and postcards from the late 19th century onwards, many of the hundreds of items already uploaded to the website are rare and previously unseen.  Just a handful of examples include personal drawings and plans from the architect and designer who undertook the massive re-building of the venue in the 1970s; handwritten comments from a 1930s visitor’s book for theatrical digs; a first-hand account of being in the audience for Jimi Hendrix’s legendary 1967 Theatre Royal concert; and actors sharing their backstage stories and anecdotes.  The digital archive allows users to explore these fascinating artefacts and to delve deeper via related links on each website page.

David Longford, Creative Learning Manager at the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, has led the archive project from the start.  Today, he said; “I am delighted to be able to launch our theatre’s digital archive today.  Our intention was always to make this resource more than just a chronological history of the Theatre Royal, but rather an opportunity for us to tell stories about our past and for people to explore our history through the many related links on the site. Our aim is for the archive to grow and grow as we continually upload more material.  There will be plenty more for users to see and listen to on each return visit.”

Jo Robinson, Associate Professor in Drama and Performance in the School of English at the University of Nottingham, has published work on the early years of the venue and has helped the Theatre Royal develop and support a new volunteer-led approach to researching the theatre’s history. “The University of Nottingham is delighted to support this wonderful project alongside the Heritage Lottery Fund. The archive draws on not just the hard work and research of our volunteers but also their local knowledge, personal stories and passion for the venue – it’s been a wonderful experience to work with such an enthusiastic and committed team.”

Anyone with stories or artefacts to contribute to the Theatre Royal’s on-going archive project can contact david.longford@nottinghamcity.gov.uk for further information.